Is Swiss skiing really just a big swizz?
Jamie Grierson gets a taste of the high life. But is it worth spending more to try something new in Switzerland than, say, France or the USA?
LEANING my head out of the train window, take in the fresh mountain air as we glide along the edge of Lake Zurich. The beautiful reflection of the autumn sun bounces off the icy water and is framed exquisitely by the snow-topped mountains in the distance.
I’m travelling from Zurich airport and, after a couple of changes, I’m on the Rhaetian railway to Davos in the largest Swiss canton, Graubunden.
As we snake up the mountain through coniferous trees, climbing ever higher, the snow covering the ground becomes thicker and thicker. It’s the perfect start to a ski holiday. In the past, I’ve been crammed into a minibus with nine or 10 companions and thrown back and forth round hairpin bends, while listening to an obnoxious seasonnaire tell me how ‘sick’ the powder has been this year.
haven’t been skiing in Switzerland before, so I’m keen to see how it compares with France and the USA. With its world famous designer watches, unattainable bank accounts and über-strong currency, it’s not surprising that Switzerland is much fancier.
From the flat-screen TVs in the bubble lifts, to the succulent Wiener-Schnitzel in the mountainside restaurants, the quality of the Swiss ski experience is much more luxurious. But of course, like all such things, it comes at a cost.
My introduction to the Swiss high life is at the Intercontinental in Davos, which opened last December. The hotel is shaped like a giant egg and rests on the mountainside above the rather Soviet bloc-looking town.
IIIt is now synonymous with the World Economic Forum, at which global leaders come together and talk about how they can save the world – and skiing. It can be blamed for a number of photos of UK Chancellor George Osborne in full ski garb, including a rather trendy neck buff.
The hotel is certainly comfortable, the restaurant menu is first class and the bar, designed by HR Giger of the Alien franchise, is super stylish. But have to admit that it’s all a bit much for a man of my tastes.
feel particularly self-conscious when slice into my tomato-based meal and squirt scalding hot juice across the table and down the shirt of the far more sophisticated person sitting opposite me. For a town used to hosting the British royal family, this must feel like a visit from the Royles.
And I am frequently reminded of the interest in royalty.
“Kiss-and-tell doesn’t happen in Davos,” I’m told, moments after being shown the Chesa Grischuna hotel where members of the British royal family stay.
Much more affordable and down-toearth is the Hotel Wynegg, a fully restored chalet-style building and rather more modest. It oozes Alpine charm and is run by an enthusiastic trio of
III20-somethings, who all grew up in the village.
While affordable and simple, there is nothing rough around the edges about this place; it is stylish, the restaurant serves warming food cooked on the premises, and the rooms combine clean, modern touches with traditional features. But what about the skiing? Our guide, Andre Kindschi, has been all over the world, but his love for his home country is infectious. However, despite the large number of runs, the skiing at Davos Klosters lacks a sense of variety and can become quite repetitive.
An hour away on the bus is Lenzerheide, a resort recently linked with another called Arosa. The new lift connecting the two has effectively doubled access to skiing in the resort.
For someone who loves to get the miles in, covering large swathes of mountain territory, this is much more like it. The skiing is mixed and suitable for all skill levels.
We stay in Priva Lodge, a giant chalet-style hotel with all the luxury trimmings. relatively new development, it feels a little isolated,
Abut I’m sure this will be corrected in time, as new resorts, hotels and chalets spring up around it.
don’t tend to waste time on anything but skiing or snowboarding – it seems odd to spend so much money and not use every minute available – but I’m introduced to piste sledging and snowshoeing in Graubunden and I’m pleasantly surprised.
I’m a bit of a thrill junkie and sledging is fantastic. If you have no fear and keep your feet up, you can really pick up speed. Throw in a few mates – and a few beers – and you can have yourself an incredibly fun race.
ISnowshoeing is not a thrill ride, but is fascinating nonetheless.
Accessing areas of the mountain that you can’t on skis or a snowboard brings great pleasure, and accompanied by our Swiss guide, who is capable of distinguishing between the snow tracks of a bunny and a squirrel, it’s all rather educational.
Although many of the stereotypes about Switzerland being a rich country are true, it also offers some very novel ski experiences.
Even if it’s a little bit on the posh side, for a five-star experience of skiing, it’s unbeatable.
Jamie Grierson was ready to scorn sledging but the high-speed runs in the Davos/Klosters region more than satisfied the thrill factor
Stunning scenery on the rail trip to Davos